The “last of the buffoon dictators” was one correspondent’s take on the death of Muamar Gaddafi. With his numerous outlandish costumes, opulent palace and corps of female Amazonian bodyguards he certainly cut a colourful figure as he paraded on the world stage. But his record on human rights was a black one. His sponsorship of terrorism and his brutality against even his own people were well known and in the end he met a gruesome fate which many will say was well-deserved.
Although Western leaders had previously been happy to do business with Gaddafi and his oil rich country, they lost no time in condemning him after his demise. The Defence Secretary Peter Hammond said Libya had been liberated from a “forty year tyranny”, while the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that his death “brought to a close a very unfortunate chapter in Libya’s history.”
Perhaps they are right, and surely we in the West should be grateful that no secret police prowl our streets and dissenters are not hanged from lamp posts, but how much better is our leadership? Vedic scriptures say much on the subject as of course good leaders are critical to the peoples’ welfare. The Mahabharata goes so far as to say that the age itself is determined by the leaders. In other words, whether it is the Kali age – the age of quarrel and hypocrisy – or the “golden” Satya age of goodness depends entirely on the worlds’ leaders.
Leaders have a vision they lead us towards, but that vision must be based upon knowledge of where humanity should be headed for its ultimate good. These days it is all about economic success, but this is not the Vedic standard. Human life is meant for much more than material happiness. Leaders without this vision are described as the blind leading the blind. As in Bruegel’s famous painting everyone ends up in the ditch, which in the case of poor Gaddafi turned out to be more than just a metaphor.
Today’s leaders are mostly just managers. Leadership guru Stephen Covey puts it nicely when he says, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” We all want happiness and the right wall is the one which, when we get to the top, we find happiness with no further chance of any more suffering. That is the supreme destination where a truly qualified leader will take us. According to the Vedas this is the vision of spiritually advanced persons who always look to the divine abode of Krishna. It is only there that the hankering soul finds ultimate peace and happiness.
The right vision means the right paradigm, which means recognising how no one in this world has independent authority. All authority derives from God and must therefore be exercised on his behalf. Without God’s sanction nothing can succeed. A good example was seen earlier this year when the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, faced with an unprecedented drought situation and realising that there was only one solution, intelligently proclaimed an official “three day period of prayer for rain.”
Higher powers and indeed the highest power of God controls everything and until we recognise that power we must inevitably fall foul of it by transgressing divine law. Following divine law means being led by the godly towards God. This brings about all benefit, both material and spiritual. The Vedas speak about a hierarchy of authority coming down from Krishna, through the Devas or the powers behind nature, to the king or leader in human society. Aligning society with this hierarchy will create a heaven on earth. The Ramayana describes the rule of Rama, the famous ‘Rama-rajya’, as having brought this about. At that time there was no undue suffering anywhere – not even from natural causes (controlled by the Devas), bodily ailments, poverty, anxiety or anything. Everyone was peaceful, fully satisfied and happy, and at the end of life they ascended to the Lord’s supreme abode.
Conversely, however, a rule that neglects God’s laws will eventually create a hell on earth. Disease, want, war, depression and miseries of every type will become rampant. No matter how well meaning and hard working the leaders may be, if they have no spiritual vision they will find all their plans thwarted and the people they are trying to lead dissatisfied to the point where they will eventually throw them out.
Genuine happiness will never come from mere worldly affluence, even if it is acquired. As spiritual beings we cannot be satisfied with that. We need to connect with the Supreme Spirit and experience supreme spiritual bliss. Leaders without this knowledge are useless. We can find our own way into the ditch without their help, but of course that is not where we want to be. We want to be led back to Krishna and our loving relationship with him. Let us look for such leaders and make our lives truly successful.